TRAINING LEIA

Video: Basic commands at 10 weeks of age

I’m an opportunist when it comes to training.

So often a puppy will offer a response, and I grab the opportunity to add the command to match it.

I believe in setting a foundation right off the bat and taking advantage of the prime learning period while puppies are like little sponges. 

I gave Leia the first few days to acclimate to her new home, and then I started training.  I guess it is the teacher in me, but I absolutely LOVE training. It gives me so much joy to see a young puppy try to figure out what’s being asked and watching the switch turn on. Every dog owner has a system that works for them. I will share what works for me and how I go about teaching.

I started with SIT which she learned in two short sessions. Sit is so easy to teach. Using a treat, I move my hand upwards and rearwards over the puppy’s head. When they follow the motion it automatically unbalances them into a sitting position. Once the puppy starts to offer the sit from a verbal command, I then start adding the corresponding hand signal.  

The next command I taught Leia was LIE DOWN. Heidi had been very difficult to teach LIE DOWN, so I was expecting the same challenge. But I had nothing to worry about; Leia mastered LIE DOWN as quickly as she learned SIT.  I first put her into a sit position, and then lead her into a lie down position with a treat in my hand.  Leia got the lie down quickly in the front but would often raise her butt as she went down in front.  The secret was encouraging her to keep her butt in the sit position while she went down.  She figured it out after a few tries. She’s very eager and seems to love “working.”

My next target was to work on RECALL, reinforcing name recognition and the command COME. 

The first challenge was to teach her that Leia is her name!  Lots of repetition and praise! Then the next hurdle was to get her attention and a reaction to LEIA! Not easy with puppy ADHD. There are a multitude of ways to get a puppy’s attention; the key is variety. Puppies very quickly figure out which attention-getting methods are worth responding to. 

It was difficult in the beginning, but gradually I could see her start to hesitate when I called her name, and from there I built on creating excitement and enthusiasm to the command COME. 

This is a great time to be the opportunist!

Anytime she offered to acknowledge me and come to me, I took advantage of her initiative and called, “Leia, COME!” in a happy, excited voice as she was making a beeline for me. She got a treat and lots of praise as soon as she arrived and sat in front of me. 

Then I started to push the envelope a bit.  I waited until she got about 25-30 feet away and engrossed in something. I called her name and asked her to come. 

She responds positively about 40% of the time, and when she does, she runs to me as fast as she can.  I actually turn my body slightly so she won’t leap up and slam into me; she’s learning to regulate her approach.  It’s such a thrill to see a young puppy respond so joyfully to being called, and I want to build on that. Reliable recall takes time and lots of consistency. Sometimes people make the mistake of calling over and over again. You will see puppies tune out constant chatter and repetition.

In addition, commands should be succinct and follow the puppy’s name. “Leia, sit!”  NOT, “Leia, you’re a such a cute little girl. Will you sit for me?”  This excessive jargon is totally confusing to a puppy (and adult dogs too!). Commands should be given ONLY after the dog’s attention is directed to the trainer.  When the dog is focused then the command is given ONCE.  The dog must be given the chance to succeed.  There have been times when I’ve given my command once, and Leia doesn’t respond immediately. But I still have her attention, so I wait. I can see the little wheels turning in that puppy brain, and then she offers the response. 

I always subscribe to the philosophy that less chatter is better.  I like my dog to associate my voice with good things. 

Two days ago, I decided to add a new command into the mix – WAIT!

Many people use STAY, but over the years I’ve developed a preference for WAIT.  Wait is such an important command.  I use it at the doorway when I need to go out without the dog and also when I want the dog to stay in the car while I open the car door.  I also use it when the dog is exiting the crate.

I am still feeding Leia in her crate. Before I open the crate door, I ask Leia to sit, then WAIT as I open the door to put her food down. I do not like dogs that dive into their food bowl as I am in the process of putting it down.  All my dogs learn they must wait until the bowl is down and I say OK, which is my release word. 

To me, STAY is a very definite command which means the dog must not move from the spot where the command was given.  WAIT gives the dog a teeny bit more latitude. I believe that it is valuable to a trainer to have both commands in one’s arsenal.

I will also be training the commands for leave it, drop it, give & take it, and watch me. I build gradually, and currently we are working on what I feel is a good training foundation for me and Leia.  I will continue to share the process of training as we proceed, including leash training. 

One thought on “TRAINING LEIA

  1. fran says:

    How exciting Deb! Love watching the progress of Leia. Looking forward to the next episode:-)

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